As an at-large representative of my mother’s home state, the state I spent every un-abused moment of my childhood in, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, I have been following this thread since I returned from Nationals and have refrained from joining in until I have tempered my input to be as accurate, politically correct, un-hurtful and in good sportswoman-like manner as possible.
Much of what I have seen and heard this past week in my first National Pageant experience from and between many "sisters" has been appalling. I have seen hurtful actions causing tears; I have heard venomous behind-the-back and in-your-face comments. I have heard more than one discriminatory comment and have seen a small collection of GEMs (green-eyed-monsters.) It would appear that several "ladies" have either forgotten or never understood the definition of "elegance". Elegance is the quality of being graceful in appearance or manner - not just how you look, but how you act.
Diane De Salvo Beebe, Ms. Senior New Jersey 2014 states, "I do not think it is right that an at large candidate should be in the top ten. They have no cameo club sponsorship." In essence she says “You can enter the game, give us your money, but don’t expect to win.” This is outrageous! She further states "Whoever pays the fee $1285 this year buys the title n crown. No questions asked." First, Senior America has rules which every candidate is aware of. I have followed them. If Ms. Beebe does not like the rules, then she should put her efforts to work to change them. One cannot join in a game that has rules in place that one is aware of, then claim the rules are unfair when one fails to win. That might be construed as “sour grapes.” One either declines to participate at the outset if the rules are unpalatable, withdraws or participates gracefully, befitting the title of 'Queen.' Second, my goal was to present myself as the "best Linda Machado" I could be, not to win anything. I worked VERY hard at EVERY aspect of achieving my goal before, during and after the Pageant. I achieved my goal by being the best I could be and was acknowledged by being selected by the judges as a Top Ten Finalist. I EARNED this honor, I did not steal it. Third, I was required to sponsor myself and I sponsored myself 100%. I put aside money from every single dollar I earned over the past year to enter the Pageant at large and to fund my travel expenses. That money was depleted in September when I had to close out that savings account to pay for my mother's funeral expenses inasmuch as she died indigent. I have no idea how I am going to pay back the nearly $3,000 in credit card debt I have incurred to participate in the Pageant, but I know that God will provide as he always does. I would invite Ms. Beebe to walk a mile in my shoes before judging me. Finally, "no questions asked,"??? Ms. Beebe needs to think again. I walked through fire to represent my family home state, and those that know me and my circumstances personally know exactly what I am talking about. Ms. Beebe's sweeping generalizations seriously lack foundation and research. Ms. Beebe goes on to state "Now they r desperate....etc." Desperate? To maintain the quality of the Pageant, if not continue the Pageant itself, including as many participants as possible is necessary. This is a basic business concept. Perhaps Ms. Beebe would prefer to abolish all at-large representation. Then the state cameo clubs could either pay triple the fees they pay now, or perhaps move the pageant to a local senior center or assisted living facility where the overhead would be minimal instead of at a 4-star facility. I do not think it is the National Pageant that is desperate, but rather the voice of the few who apparently chose to not go the extra mile. The National Pageant is simply trying to promote its mission and vision as a quality experience for all involved; which, by the way, all of us understood when we got involved in the first place.
Vanessa Shaw, Ms. Senior New Jersey 2013, states "It seems to me an unfair advantage. The “at large” contestants don't have to “sweat through” the local state pageants. Then they get to the nationals and voila! They are rewarded by being placing in the top ten … seven of them! That’ like cutting in line at the cafeteria and being rewarded at checkout with an extra scoop of ice-cream. It kind of negates the whole spirit of “fair competition.” First, I have "sweated through" two Arizona state pageants - I took 2nd place in 2012 and again in 2013, won the talent trophy in 2012 and tied for the philosophy of life trophy in 2013. There is no "voila" about it. Second, as far as placing in the Top Ten, I reiterate that I have worked VERY hard to be the best "Linda Machado" I can be. I did not cut in line; but I will not step out of the line for those who, according to the judges, apparently did not do sufficient work to be in the line in the first place. As the quote goes, "I will not dim my light simply because it is shining in your eyes." Third, as far as "spirit of fair competition," Ms. Shaw's comments could, unfortunately, be interpreted as: fair competition, but not for some people who, despite complying with the rules, should be excluded. I have been the object of exclusion for decades because I was not part of the “community” simply because I did not fit the “rules” of who should be in the “community” even though I complied with the rules. Regardless of how hard I or my parents worked, we simply did not fit in the “community.” I aced the spelling bee but was put in the back of the room behind the 2nd and 3rd place winners because I didn’t fit the mold of the other students in the “community”; considered acceptable treatment back then, but not these days; or maybe it still is. It is the exclusionary beliefs of some that negate fair competition.
Ms. Beebe further states “this At Large issue is not only frustrating but degrading to those who partake in the fair competition. If they removed all the at large persons i may have made the top ten." First, what IS degrading is the attitude many “Queens" and ladies of “elegance" have adopted publicly regarding a perfectly fair competition. I have seen ladies liked, complimented and socialized with - until they achieved Top 10. Then it’s an abrupt about-face. How rude. Second, any contestant that wants to narrow the contestant pool to ensure a win for herself has missed the point of the whole experience. Why stop at removing just at-large persons - why not further restrictions? Remove all who wear the wrong color gown, or all who don't wear enough jewelry or - we can get really restrictive here - why not remove all who are the wrong size, shape, color or religious persuasion? Ms. Beebe did not make the Top 10 because the judges apparently did not think she should have. Perhaps she could have worked harder to ensure the judges felt she was worthy of Top 10 or, just simply blame the judges outright for being blind; but to want to narrow the pool of contestants to ensure a win???
Linda Bullock, Ms. Senior Pennsylvania 2012 states "I do not understand how you can be an at large contestant when you do not even live in the State. I am very proud of my state of Pennsylvania. How do you go back to your state and you are wearing a banner of another State. Maybe I just don't understand." First, Ms. Bullock is absolutely correct - she does not understand. Judy Lamppu, a multi-time contestant on a local state level, states " The state banner is ....not of any use particularly in the current state of residence." Apparently she also does not understand. This is not a state beauty contest. This is being part of something much, much larger - Senior America - not Senior (name your state). Wearing my banner (in any state) is a tremendous opportunity to promote the mission of Senior America. I proudly wear my banner at every opportunity in the state in which I currently reside and in any state I may travel to or through. Every person that asks me about it gets an immediate referral to the state pageant and to the National website. Quite frankly, I am met with more people saying they never “heard of such a thing” (the National Pageant) than those that have heard of it. Clearly more exposure is necessary on a national level and it is the responsibility of ALL the Queens to do so. I wonder how many do. So, for someone who really "understands," the banner (of any state) is an extraordinary opportunity to promote Senior America in ANY state (which is, as I "understand" it – is the purpose of this whole thing, is it not???)
Ms. Beebe continues to state "the at-large candidates do not struggle to win their own state they just buy in…. I feel the judges need to know who bought in and who actually won.” She also apparently does not understand the struggle many at-large contestants have undergone. There are many women; I repeat many, who might never, not ever, in a million years, win in their home state - for a variety of reasons. Yet some of these women compete at large on a national level against those who have won in their home state and end up in the top 10 nationally; and at great financial burden because they believe in themselves. That may (or may not) say something in itself about many state pageants; and as far as the judges not knowing who is at large – you’d better believe some of the judges do know; and the fact that some judges did know did not alter their decision that whoever ended up in the Top 10 deserved to be there. The ones who put in a great effort to win, who struggled to win, did win. Those that did not? Did not. It is as simple as that.
Ms. Shaw eloquently points out that: “We’ve earned the right to speak our minds.. Each and every one us." But when "speaking our minds" without a filter is at risk to attack (yes, attack) one segment of the population (such as the at-large contestants – purported “sisters”), then speaking one's mind must be accompanied by a filter that gets one's point across yet in a genteel manner, befitting a "Queen" and even more so, a mature woman of "elegance." I would be embarrassed, not as a Queen, but as a woman of elegance, to say in public the things I actually think about some Pageant participants based on their actions and attitudes at the Pageant as well as their public comments in Atlantic City and on Facebook. I would be horrified if any of my comments made any of my "sisters" feel like pariahs. While, unfiltered, my words easily can cut others to shreds , I have chosen to place a filter on them. All I can say is that I am grateful that I do not live in 1692 Salem with Ms. Beebe, Shaw, & Bullock as neighbors. Speaking one's mind is one thing, but negativity and toxicity has no place in the Pageant and creating dissension on this level, diluting the auspicious mission of Senior America, is not living "gracefully" but, rather, living "DISgracefully."